Category Archives: Step by Step with Pictures

Cheese Making: Chèvre Recipe Step by Step with Pictures

Making cheese is both simple and tricky. Let me show you this easy chèvre recipe, step by step.

Chèvre Recipe Step by Step

A hand formed log of chèvre rolled in fresh herbs from the garden.

And chèvre, the cheese we think of simply as “goat cheese”, is delicious, with a taste that is both true and complex, sweet yet tangy. If you haven’t yet tried it freshly made, you are in for a treat!

homemade chèvre goat cheese

I love cheese, and ever since we have been receiving more goat’s milk than we can drink, I have been experimenting with making fresh cheese at home. I have had some high points, some disappointments, an extremely low point, and have finally managed to get some consistency. I’m excited to finally share what I’ve learned here!

homemade chèvre goat cheese

This recipe is extremely simple. Just a few ingredients. Follow the technique carefully and you will get excellent results. Although I love to improvise in the kitchen, a word of caution: Even if you drink your milk raw, please consider pasteurizing for the purpose of makingcheese. If you think about it, growing cheese is growing bacteria and you want to make sure that you are only growing the bacterium that you want. It is also VITAL in cheesemaking to sterilize EVERYTHING that touches the cheese. By sterilize I mean using bleach, not just soap and hot water. Spoons, pots, colander, jars, dishes, etc… My husband and I learned the hard way. Please check out my first home dairy post on How to Pasteurize Fresh Milk at Home for more of that story and to learn how to make raw milk safe for cheesemaking.

Special Equipment:


  • 1 gallon of goat milk (raw or pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 package of chèvre starter
  • cheese salt (or non-iodized salt)
  • (optional) fresh herbs, pepper, truffle salt, etc. for rolling around the outside of the finished logs

Shopping Notes:

Where? Click on any of the links to purchase these supplies through Amazon. Full Disclosure: I make a small commission on any completed purchase made from a link off this site or from our Store. If you are in San Diego, you can also buy all these and more at Curds and Wine. The owner is also very generous with her knowledge and has even helped me troubleshoot a ricotta a that wasn’t setting over the phone.

Why special ingredients? My first attempt at cheese was a chèvre recipe I googled that just used lemon juice. Let me tell you, it did NOT work. My second attempt was a ricotta using vinegar. It worked somewhat but it was rubbery and unpleasant to eat straight. Give the real stuff a shot!


(Goat Cheese) Chèvre Recipe Step by Step with Pictures

1. Sterilize all of your equipment with hot water and a little bleach.

2. Bring the milk up to 86° F into a large stainless steel (non-alluminum) pot. (If using raw milk: filter milk and bring it up to 145° F for 30 minutes in order to pasteurize it. Let the milk cool down to 86° F.)

3. Sprinkle a package of chèvre starter over the milk. Let it sit for 2 minutes to rehydrate and then stir it to mix it in. Then let the milk sit at room temperature, or 72° F, for 10-12 hours. (I prefer to do this overnight.) The cheese will be “ready” when a small amount (1/4 inch) of whey has pooled at the top and a knife or spoon inserted into it can make a “clean break” or crevice in the thickened cheese. It will look a little like greek yogurt.

homemade chèvre goat cheese

4. Gently ladle all of the curds (the thickened part) and whey (the liquid part) into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth. Tie up the cheese cloth with twine and hang so that the whey drips into a large pot or bowl. Let hang for 6-8 hours.

5. Cut down the twine and unwrap the fresh cheese. Transfer to a bowl. (Cheese can be covered and stored in the fridge at this point.)

homemade chèvre goat cheese

6. Hand form the cheese into logs. Roll each log in cheese salt (or salt that has not been iodized.) You may also put fresh herbs, coarsely ground pepper, truffle salt, dried berries, or another topping on the plate with the salt.

7. Wrap the finished logs in cheese cellophane and secure with scotch tape. (Regular cellophane is not breathable and will cause the cheese to get slimy.)

homemade chèvre goat cheese

Click on any of these images to see them bigger.


Chèvre produces a relatively large yield of cheese, as opposed to some hard cheeses. You can easily halve this recipe (using 2 quarts of milk). I got 1.75 pounds of cheese from 1 gallon of milk this last time and have gotten about 1 pound of chèvre from 1/2 gallon of milk.

Please let me know if you have any questions. I promise to post the chocolate and goat cheese truffle recipe next!

Update! The chocolate and goat cheese post is now up. Click here for the chocolate…

Alice Water’s Simple Tomato Sauce with Meatballs

Ever since a friend posted a picture of canning this tomato sauce recipe by Alice Waters, I’ve been wanting to try it. The owner of the legendary Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Waters is well known for pioneering California cuisine and championing organic and local food. I begged my friend to share the recipe and once she finally did I was shocked at how simple it was. (I also thought it kind of reminded me of this simple tomato sauce I threw together the other day.)


My sister and her fiance were visiting from Portland. She teaches science and shared that she had recently been reading an article on why homegrown Heirloom tomatoes taste so much better than commercially produced, genetically modified and supermarket sold “tomatoes.” According to the article in Scientific American, “a tomato’s flavor depends not only on the balance of sugars and acids within the fruit, but also on subtle aromatic compounds.” These compounds are called “volatiles”, are largely lacking in supermarket tomatoes, and the rarest of which make for the tastiest of tomatoes.  –We always knew we were on to something, right?

In a sauce this simple, the freshness and quality of the ingredients really shine. We served it with our favorite meatball recipe, hearty penne pasta and freshly grated parmesan.

Step by Step Tomato Prep

Cut or obtain 2 pounds of tomatoes. I had been wanting to try out our new kitchen scale.

20120906-215109.jpgEscali Arti 15 Pound, 7 Kilogram Digital Scale

It’s cute, huh? It is the size of an iPad and also comes in fun colors, like purple. It has a hold function, but it was quick and easy to put another (identical) empty bowl on the scale and zero it out.


Although the recipe calls for 2 pounds, I happened to have 2 pounds and 5 ounces and just rolled with it.


I washed and scored the tomatoes. Please see this post for step by step directions on how to easily peel tomatoes.



Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe by Alice Waters

Peel, seed and dice 2lbs of ripe tomatoes. Save the juice, strain out the seeds, and add the juice to the diced tomatoes.

Peel 5 large garlic cloves. Smash them and chop coarse. Put a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and when hot, pour in 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil. Add the garlic and when it starts to sizzle, immediately add the tomatoes and their juice with a large pinch of salt.

Cook at a simmer for 15 minutes. For a smooth sauce, pass through a food mill.

Variations: Add a handful of chopped parsley, marjoram, or oregano or a chiffonade of basil leaves to the sauce a couple of minutes before it is done. Saute 1 small diced onion in the oil before adding garlic. Add a whole dried chile or a pinch of dried chile flakes for spice.


I used just the tomatoes, garlic and basil. I was going to use the pepper from our garden but I really wanted to test out the basic sauce. It’s surprisingly flavorful! I did end up sautéing the pepper with zucchini and onions from the garden. We served the veggies, sauce and fresh parmesan over hearty penne with meatballs made by Papa Bird.

Braised Short Rib Tagine

One of my favorite places to shop for meat in San Diego is Seisel’s/Iowa Meat. Generally when I shop I like to go in and see what’s good and on special. The butchers there are knowledgeable and I also like to get their recommendations on what’s tasty and a good value. The other day, these prime short ribs at a really low price caught my eye. Braised short rib is a restaurant dish my husband and I both like, and I wanted to give them a try.

I browsed a few recipes online. Some of them were a little complicated. Sorry, Tom Colicchio, they sound great, but I don’t have two days to make dinner or a week to hunt down the special cut. Sometimes I think some chefs share complicated recipes so that you get impressed, hungry and go to their restaurant instead of actually attempting to recreate them. The rest of them just seemed like variations on making a beef stew, so I just went into the kitchen, but not without misadventure. I had a dutch oven that I have been wanting to use, but nearly started a grease fire by having it on too high of heat. I had to improvise at the last minute, braising the short ribs in a tagine. Here’s what I came up with!

Braised Short Ribs: Step by Step with Pictures

Step 1: Gather your ingredients. In this case, carrots, celery, shallot, garlic and tomatoes. (You could substitute tomato paste for tomatoes and can use onions.) Oh! And red wine. (I have been having good luck lately with Trader Joe’s “Reserve” series of wines–usually $30 bottles sold for ~$10.)


Step 2: Depending on their size, plan on 2-3 ribs per serving. (Consult the butcher.) Season the meat with kosher salt and pepper. Put a dutch oven or heavy sauce pan on medium heat. (Do not do as I did and use high heat– I burnt the oil and nearly started a grease fire.)


Step 3: (If needed) Distract baby with a piece of celery. A trick I learned from a friend: celery is a natural teether. Left whole it is not as much of a choke hazard, but supervise, of course. Now is also a good time to do a quality control test of the wine.*


Step 4: Brown each side of the meat briefly (just until a fraction of an inch is browned) in a little bit of an oil appropriate for high heat. Be sure to get the “ends” seared too. Searing is thought to seal in moisture and the caramelization adds a depth of flavor.


Step 5: While the meat is being seared, chop the carrot, celery, shallot/onion, and garlic. Peel and chop the tomatoes.


Step 6: Remove the meat from the pan and place in a tagine or casserole dish with a lid. (Since I had a layer of scorched oil on my extremely hot dutch oven, I instead used a tagine, which Moroccans and other North Africans and Mediterraneans typically use to slowly braise meats and stews.)


Step 7: In the same pan, saute all of the vegetables, starting with the hardest first and ending with the tomatoes. Add 1 cup of red wine and let the alcohol cook out. Add 1 cup of beef, veal or chicken broth. (I had a veal broth in my cupboard I had been wanting to try.)


Step 8: Here is the step that will elevate the dish from simply a stew to fancy pants: Purée the sauce in a blender and then return to the pan. Continue to cook the sauce, until it reduces by half. Let the sauce build up a nice thickness on the bottom a few times and then scrape it up with a spatula and mix it in. Getting a nice dark sauce is key to mimicking the yummy intensity of restaurant dishes.


Step 9: Combine the sauce with the meat in your baking dish. Add herbs such as thyme, bay leaf and rosemary. Submerge the herbs in the sauce so they will infuse into it. Coincidentally, the marrow from the bones will also be leaking out and joining the sauce. Marrow is filled with nutrients and the one thing I craved while pregnant.


Step 10: Cover and bake at 350° for 3 hours. (Make sure your tagine is safe to go up to that high of heat. Some are more decorative and are meant for serving only.)


The meat literally fell off the bone on half of the ribs.


Enjoy with mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes or polenta; a green salad or veggie and a glass of the same red wine.


*When I studied Sociology in Spain, the problem of “borachas de la cocina” was discussed. Literally the feminine form of “kitchen drunks,” the term referred to the very serious issue of alcoholic housewives. For some reason the term always struck me as funny. Please be sure that alcoholism is nothing to laugh at, and send me a personal message for any help finding resources… but I do secretly like to reference las borachas de la cocina and giggle when I practice the tradition of drinking a glass of wine while cooking.

Home Dairy 101: How to Pasteurize Fresh Milk at Home

Backyard goats are the new chickens!

pic courtesy White Mountains Ranch

We don’t actually have goats in our backyard. But we are part owners in a goat co-op. We contributed to the purchase of five dairy goats (four already milking and one yearling) and help pay for their feed and keep each month. They are boarded on a small ranch just east of the city and are fed organic feed and lovingly cared for by our friend and source for all things chicken. We receive 1-2 gallons of fresh milk each week. I love it when there is a little extra to play with and have so far made various cheeses, kefir and cajeta. (Subscribe to the blog for those recipes which are coming soon.) We haven’t bought any cow, soy, rice, almond or other milk since.

Up until now I have shared primarily recipes that I thought would interest a wide selection of people. I realize that very few people in America need to pasteurize milk at home. The vast majority of milk sold is already pasteurized and those drinking raw milk have likely gone to a great deal of expense and trouble to find it. Raw milk is legal here in California (but heavily monitored and restricted) and it cannot be bought in many states.

I wasn’t really intending to get into the whole pros/cons of raw milk… to be honest we never sought it out. We were interested in joining the co-op so that we knew where our milk was coming from. We like that it is from a very small ranch and that we know how the animals are being treated. We are confident that they do not receive hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. We decided to give it a shot. We did not intend to give raw milk to Baby Bird ever, nor would I have wanted to drink it if/when pregnant again. The milk tastes surprisingly good. It tastes less “goaty” then goat milk I have had from the store. And to tell the truth, the raw milk really does taste better….

But… my husband and I were drinking the milk for about four months without issue until one of my cheese recipes required the milk to sit at room temperature for 24 hours. We each had only one bite of the cheese as it tasted really “wrong.” Unfortunately, the 24 hours had encouraged the growth of not only the good cultures but also some yucky bacteria. (In our case, campylobacter.) We were sick, as in drink-the-water-in-Mexico-sick, for two weeks. I am so grateful that our baby never had any.

Our milk is handled under safe and sanitary conditions. It could’ve been a fluke that one of our bottles, one time, got one or two little germies, and the cheese making process was perfect conditions for multiplying them to a critical mass. I personally believe now that drinking milk raw was like playing Russian Roulette. <Sigh.> Too bad since it tasted so good.

Luckily, there is a very easy fix! Now I err on the safe side and pasteurize all of our milk (including sterilizing bottles and equipment) before drinking it or using it in any dairy making.

So why would YOU be interested in learning how to pasteurize milk at home? Here are some reasons why this is an important skill:

  1. You may get your own goats or purchase some raw milk at a farmer’s market and want to give it to a small child, an adult with an impaired immune system, or make cheese out of it.
  2. There could be a zombie apocalypse and all things homesteading will be increasingly important. :)
  3. The world banking system could fail, leading to a return to feudalism. :)

In the case of 2 or 3 above, there probably won’t be interwebs anymore, so I suggest studying well. You never know when you might need the information.

How To Pasteurize Milk at Home

In the simplest terms, raw milk can be made extremely safe to drink by bringing it to 161° F for 30 seconds, or bringing it to 140° F for 30 minutes. I use the “high and fast” method for drinking and general use and the “slow and low” for making cheese. (Higher temperatures can effect the quality of cheese, but the quicker time makes it more convenient for general use.)

Step 1: In a clean and sterilized, non-reactive pot or double boiler, bring the milk up to temperature. Stir the milk on occasion with a sterilized spoon or spatula so that the bottom doesn’t scorch. Note: In the picture below, I am pasteurizing 5 quarts of milk. I am not using a double boiler since it wouldn’t fit. I have once pasteurized as little as 1 quart (rushing to work in the morning and needing milk for coffee and cereal) and I used the double boiler. It took less time to pasteurize a quart of milk than it took to make 2 cups of coffee.


Step 2: While the milk is heating, clean and sterilize the bottles. I wash them in hot water and then add a teaspoon of bleach. I fill them with hot water up to the brim, seal them with their lids and let them sit for 2 minutes. Rinse very well.

Step 3: Prepare your set up for cooling the milk. The taste will be best if you can cool the milk as quickly as possible once it has been at 161° F for 30 seconds or 140° F for 30 minutes. Water is a better conductor of heat than air, so the bottles will cool fastest in a bath of ice water. For a batch this large, I put a stopper in the smaller, second half of my sink and fill it with ice, ice packs and water.

Step 4: As soon as the milk has hit 161° F for 30 seconds or 140° F for 30 minutes, pour it into clean and sterilized bottles through a filter. I also use a large funnel. A mesh filter will catch any bits of milk that have “cooked.” (Tip: if the surface of your sink is uneven, place a small plate upside down and then place the bottles on top of the plate.)


Step 5: Seal the bottles. Submerge them in ice water. Let the bottles cool until they are at least room temperature, then dry them and move them to the refrigerator.


Voila! Pasteurized milk is supposed to last longer in the fridge than raw.

(Pictures of the goats are courtesy White Mountains Ranch.)

UPDATE: Please check out our brand new Store for all of the equipment and supplies used in pasteurizing milk and cheese making.

Raw milk can be a hot topic, so some thoughts regarding comments: Opinions and information regarding raw milk are okay but please be kind. These are the choices we have made for our family after research and deliberation. Please respect our self determination as well as those of other commenters. My intention is not tell you TO drink milk a certain way, only HOW if you so choose. Thank you!

How To Boil the Perfect Fresh Egg

On our little backyard homestead, summer brings not only a bounty of vegetables and herbs, but also a plethora of eggs. Chickens respond to the longer days and increased light and are at their peak of production. This is one reason why commercial egg producers will keep lights on the hens, day and night. We live in San Diego and have never felt the need to add artificial light, but if you live more to the north, it might be something to consider for a few hours a day during the winter months.

This year I have been having fun swapping or trading extra eggs with other local urban homesteaders. In exchange for eggs and some dairy products, we have received homemade jams, fresh salad, kombucha, lemons and lemon curd, AVOCADOS (our absolute fav), home-baked bread, homemade granola, fresh bay leaves, chicken broth and more.

But one of my favorite ways to enjoy extra eggs is to hard boil a batch. Hardboiled egg yolk has also been a staple in baby’s diet, especially during months 6-10. Plenty of people use the following technique, but it was my grandmother who showed me how.

Boiling the Perfect Egg

Step 1: If using fresh eggs, wash them.

Step 2: Place the eggs in a medium-sized pot. Try to have enough eggs so that they are somewhat cozy, without too much room, and only in one layer.


Step 3: Cover the eggs in cold water.

Step 4: Put the pot on high heat and bring to a boil.

Step 5: As soon as the water boils, take it off the heat, cover with a lid and set a timer for 12 minutes.


Step 6: Have a bowl ready with cold water and ice. As soon as 12 minutes are up, pour out the hot water, rinse once with cold tap water and then transfer to the ice bath. If you leave them in the pot to cool, the water will quickly heat up again from the residual heat in the pot and continue cooking the eggs.

Ways to Enjoy the Eggs:

For baby the yummiest combo is half a hardboiled yolk, mashed avocado and breastmilk. My baby is “so over” purées at 11 months but will make an exception for this silky, creamy concoction. No special equipment needed other than a fork for mashing, making this a great combo to take on the road.


Hardboiled eggs make a great quick snack. Just like the raw energy bites, I love having instant food on hand. Oftentimes, when I am making baby something with the yolk, I just pop the white of the egg in my mouth. :)

My go-to summer lunch includes a green salad topped with sliced hardboiled eggs, an artisan balsamic vinegar and olive oil and fresh veggies. You can use any dressing you like, but try a really good balsamic and oil. There is something magical about the way the bits of yolk mix with the vinegar. Perhaps it is emulsifying a little in the mouth?


This salad has spring mix, avocado, hardboiled egg, tomatoes from my garden, snap peas from my mom’s garden, an espresso balsamic, blood orange olive oil and a little truffled goat cheese. The oil and vinegar are from a local shop.


Occasionally fresh eggs will be hard to peel. One tip is to reserve the oldest eggs in your fridge for boiling. Papa Bird shares that thin shells can be a symptom of a calcium deficiency in the chickens. A simple remedy is to feed the hens shells that you have rinsed and crushed up. Since he has been doing that our eggs peel easily now.

Egg yolk can be constipating for babies. At one point we had to cut back from eggs daily to every other day.

And finally: Papa Bird’s tip on how to tell if an egg is raw or hardboiled. Try to spin it like a top… if it spins, it’s cooked. If it wobbles and can’t get a decent spin, it is raw.